Taking the Political Pulse of Midland - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/30/03

Taking the Political Pulse of Midland

With just three days left until the election, the race for Congress is heating up. Most of us are familiar with who the front runners are here in Lubbock, but who and what is the talk of the town in Midland? NewsChannel 11 took to the streets of that key battleground in this race to find out.

At one of Midland's city parks, Charlie Matthews keeps a watchful eye on her grandchild, while chatting about the Congressional race with some friends. "I already voted, that's my thoughts. I've been telling my husband to go vote, but he hadn't done it yet. I'm the voter in the family," says Matthews.

In Midland, early voting numbers look good. About 10% of registered voters have already cast their ballots. That could bode well for candidates with strong support here. But, who does have strong support here? Former Midland Mayor Bobby Burns says that remains somewhat of a mystery. "Anything can happen. And I still predict a surprise somewhere," says Burns.

Burns says while Midlander Mike Conaway has emerged as a real contender in the Permian Basin, there are a few Lubbock candidates who appear to have solid support here as well. "If someone can garner 15-16%, they can be in the runoff," says Burns.

At Republican party headquarters in Midland, Midland County Chairwoman Sue Brannon says now that Lubbock and Midland share just one congressional seat, she's hoping this doesn't become an issue of -us versus them-. "We want farmers represented. We want oil and gas represented. We want all businesses represented," says Brannon.

But Brannon says their polls indicate it could very well be a Lubbock versus Midland runoff. "Isett from Lubbock and Conaway from Midland," says Brannon.

Just up the the street, Mayor Burns says the 'us versus them' mentality will be a factor. "The natural competition is there. Just like high school football and everything else. I think it's just the way it is. It's always been an 'us vs. them' thing. But, to some degree this has also brought Midland/Odessa and Lubbock closer together. Now, we're communicating more and talking, so there's good in this as well. In the end, we will choose and then we'll all be together. This has to be about oil and gas, about farming and about economic development in all of West Texas," says Burns.

On the campaign trail, we caught up with Candidate Mike Conaway at the UT Permian Basin campus in Odessa. Conaway is quick to dismiss the thought that he might be a front runner.  "John Ben Sheppard, Texas Attorney General from Odessa, once said, 'you should always run scared when campaigning'.  So, I'm running scared right now," says Conaway. 

Whatever happens, most in Midland feel it'll be down to the wire. Matthews says that's all the more reason for you to exercise that right to vote. "I voted for Neugebauer. I like him. He's conservative and I'm conservative, so our politics line up."

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